From New York to Newtown

Anat Cohen’s resume and list of awards is impressive.

She ranked second in Downbeat magazine’s Rising Star Jazz Artist category in 2008 and was the only female artist to make the list. The Jazz Journalists’ Association named the Israeli-born musician Clarinetist of the Year in both 2007 and 2008—the first time in the history of the awards that an artist has earned top clarinet honours two years running.

Cohen is one of the star attractions at this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz. Adept on both the saxophone and clarinet, Anat has embraced a wide spectrum of music in her repertoire from modern and traditional jazz to Brazilian choro, Argentinean tango and Afro-Cuban styles. She attributes these influences to having lived in New York for the past 14 years where she’s in contact with so many different ethnic sounds.

Speaking by telephone from a blistering hot New York, Anat said this would be her first visit to South Africa and she was ‘really looking forward to it”.
The New York based musician was born and raised in Tel Aviv and came to the United States in 1996 to study: ‘I am still in the US because I have found it a never ending school,” she said.

She is bringing her quartet to Jo’burg with her: ‘I am very excited because I will be playing with some fantastic musicians; we have two New Yorkers in pianist Jason Linderner and drummer Daniel Freedman. Then there is bassist Joe Martin and together we have been playing and travelling for the last three years.”

Talking about South African musicians, Anat said she had heard Hugh Masekela perform and ‘I loved it,” adding that she was not familiar with a lot of SA artists, ‘but I cannot wait to get to know more of them. My trip is going to be quite short but I would like to get to know as much as I can. I know a little bit about South Africa because my brother is married to a South African. She was born and raised in South Africa but moved to Israel with her parents as a child. Her parents still speak with a lovely South African accent,” she chuckled.

Anat revealed that she has always liked making music but mainly with other people. She said she wasn’t too enthusiastic performing alone, though she admits that it was necessary when creating and getting in touch with oneself.

‘When you’re alone it’s important but when you’re creating music with other people it is something I’ve loved since my days with youth orchestras and all through the years of playing with different bands. It’s a fantastic thing, but I never told myself that one day I wanted to be a professional musician. It didn’t happen in one moment it was a progression. On some levels I am not there yet because it is so hard to learn and it’s quite overwhelming. When are you considered to be a professional, does it have to do with making a living out of it, has it to do with a knowledge of music or how proficient you are on your instrument? I know I love it and I love travelling, being on stage and sharing music with other musicians and my audience. It’s a wonderful gift and a privilege to be able to do that.”

Her future plans include performing at the Newport Jazz Festival, a tour of Brazil, performances at New York’s Village Vanguard, writing new material and recording a new album.

—Information supplied by Standard Bank Joy of Jazz

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